A pioneering tagging system that monitors the movement and local environment of sea animals now reaches deeper depths.

The new version of Marine Skin showed improved performance, flexibility and durability when attached to different fish, including stingrays. Developed by KAUST researchers who claim it could revolutionise our ability to study sea life and its natural environment.

Marine Skin is a thin, flexible, lightweight polymer-based material with integrated electronics which can track an animal’s movement and diving behaviour and the health of the surrounding marine environment.

“The system can now operate down to a depth of 2 kilometerss, which has never been achieved before,” says Ph.D. student Sohail Shaikh of the KAUST team.

The sensitivity of the monitoring electronics has also been enhanced by up to 15 times. The data collected reveals a tagged animal’s depth and the temperature and salinity of the surrounding water. Further development is planned to incorporate additional environmental sensing capabilities, such as measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and precise geolocation tracking.

Shaikh reports that a major challenge in developing the enhancements was to make the system sufficiently robust to tolerate operating at much greater depths. The researchers also managed to reduce the size down to half that of the previous version. Tests also showed improved performance, flexibility and durability when the skin was attached to different fish, including sea bass, sea bream and small goldfish. Lab tests in highly saline Red Sea water also demonstrated integrity through a full month’s immersion and 10,000 extreme bending cycles.

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